When it comes to playing unranked foes, the field hockey team seems to know how to get the job done.
The Owls continued their perfect streak against unranked teams, defeating Virginia Commonwealth, 3-1, at Geasey Field Sunday. The Owls, who have beaten their last four non-ranked opponents, improved to 5-3. The Rams fell to 3-3.
Coach Amanda Janney, in her third season at the helm, said playing against nationally-ranked teams helps prepare the Owls for weaker opponents.
“I think that our team plays a high level of intensity, and when we compete against Top 20 teams, we are able to carry that intensity to the other games,” Janney said.
Earlier in the season, the Owls lost to Albany and Penn State, both nationally-ranked. But the Owls also pulled off an upset, defeating then-No. 20 Syracuse. Their next opportunity to knock off a ranked opponent is Sept. 30, when Temple travels to College Park, Md., to face No. 2 Maryland.
But against the Rams, the defenses were the story of the first half as both teams shut down their opponent’s scoring attack, leading to a scoreless tie at halftime. The Owls produced six penalty corners in the half, but failed to convert on each one.
A lack of offense, but a high level of defense in the first half has been a trend for the Owls this season. Through the first eight games, they have scored 16 goals, but only four have come in the first 35 minutes of play. The Owls’ defense, however, has been scored upon only four times in the first half and has not given up more than two goals in a game.
Janney said she isn’t worried about the offense.
“I think that we have some competitive athletes on this team, and they have a great desire to win,” Janney said. “When they are not scoring goals, they get even more determined to put a better attack on. We would like to score more in the first half, of course, but it is a good sign to see us keep things together and play better in the second half.”
The Owls did just that Sunday, scoring three consecutive goals in the second half. The first goal was netted by senior midfielder Alli Lokey on a penalty corner. Charise Young passed the ball to Leanne Vogelsong, who forwarded it to Lokey.
Lokey also scored the third goal of the game on a breakaway, in which she shot the ball while diving forward onto the turf. The two goals increased her team lead to five.
“Even though [VCU] isn’t a top-ranked team, we still just came out and played our game,” Lokey said. “Our intensity was there big-time and our possession passing and defense was strong. We have a very solid defensive unit.”
Sophomore forward Dannah Brehm tallied the second goal for the Owls on a breakaway, a score that came just two minutes after the first one. It was her second of the season.
Rebecca Sullivan scored the lone goal for the Rams, just three minutes before the final horn sounded.
The Owls are trying to duplicate or even surpass last season’s success when they won 13 games, their highest total since 1991. They eventually lost to Richmond in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament semifinals.
“We just have to play as hard as we can and work hard at practice,” Brehm said. “We are definitely trying to be better than we were last year.”
Kevin Smiley can be reached at email@example.com.